I have been fascinated by satin bowerbirds for many years, particularly the way the collections of  blue ornaments by the adult males reflects our social history. Long gone are the days when blue berries and bird feathers were the favoured items.

Most of the treasure these days are plastic clothes pegs, bottle tops and straws.  However in the earliest days of European settlement the birds took a liking to blue bonnet ribbons, willow-pattern china, shards of glass from blue perfume and medicine bottles and later the marble stoppers from carbonated drinks.


Here is a list of some items found in a bower in 1940. For those younger than me, bluebags were used in laundries to whiten sheets and clothing.


Before smoking decreased so much due to the Quit Campaign and strong health warnings there was scarcely a bower without a matchbox or, more recently, a  disposable lighter.

The following photo was taken in the early 2000s. Blue straws were dominating as the preferred ‘treasure’ for many bowerbirds. They were preferred only because they were so easy for the birds to procure.Bowerbirds love anything blue.

In 2016 my Blue Mountains village of Blackheath became the world’s  first community to ban plastic straws.

No more blue straws for bowerbirds.

That change was soon apparent in  local bowers, but something else took over.

Notice something about this bower, taken a few days ago? Apart from a clothes peg, all the plastic  ‘treasures’ are blue milk bottle tops. The only straws are those from Mother Nature.   I was delighted to see that there are also other natural items; yellow feathers from a sulphur crested cockatoo and blue tail feathers from a crimson rosella.

Bowerbird surrounded by blue milk bottle tops.


It occurred to me that  both our major supermarket chains use blue bottle tops. What if they changed to another colour and the birds went back  to using berries, feathers, flowers etc, as they did for  so long before the invention of plastic?

I decided I would reach out to ‘Colesworth’, especially as I’d discovered that supermarkets in the UK such as Waitrose are now using white or clear  tops. This is because  they are easier to recycle.


Woolworths  responded within an hour. They told me they are already beginning to use  clear plastic tops, which  should be in full production by the end of the year. Well, that was a wonderful surprise.  😍

Sample container. Well done Woolworths.

Coles responded immediately too, referring my query to their head office. I have no doubt that they will follow suit, which will be wonderful. Anything we can do to improve recycling has to be a big win for the environment

Eliminating  the blue plastic tops will have  a great,  albeit unintended benefit when it comes to bowerbirds. I love the fact that  their displays will  soon look more as  our early ancestors and indigenous Australians  saw them.

UPDATE – MARCH 6 – Look what my partner brought back from the supermarket yesterday. 😃




  1. Yes… but won’t the birds need to work much harder to impress?
    They will be tired out, for a much less impressive result.
    The females will scorn their efforts – not as good as last year’s!
    And fewer baby satin bowerbirds will result.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    • Pauline

      Oh dear Lynda, you could be right. It’s a bit like people being upset by the sight of wind turbines. Nothing is simple eh?

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.